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The Middleton Family at the New York World's Fair (1939)

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1939, sound, 55 min, Technicolor, 35mm. Transferred from a 35mm nitrate print.

See: Andrew Wood, "The Middleton Family at the New York World's Fair," http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/wooda/middleton/index1.html.

This drama illustrates the contribution of free enterprise, technology, and Westinghouse products to the American way of life. The Middleton Family at the New York World's Fair pits an anti-capitalist bohemian artist boyfriend against an all-American electrical engineer who believes in improving society by working through corporations. The Middletons experience Westinghouse's technological marvels at the Fair and win back their daughter from her leftist boyfriend.

Memorable moments: the dishwashing contest between Mrs. Modern and Mrs. Drudge; Electro, the smoking robot; and the Westinghouse time capsule.



This movie is part of the collection: Prelinger Archives

Production Company: Audio Productions Inc.
Audio/Visual: sound, color
Language: English
Keywords: World's Fairs; technology; capitalism; communism; time capsules

Creative Commons license: Public Domain


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Reviews
Average Rating: 4.47 out of 5 stars4.47 out of 5 stars4.47 out of 5 stars4.47 out of 5 stars4.47 out of 5 stars

Reviewer: ghostmadl - 3.00 out of 5 stars3.00 out of 5 stars3.00 out of 5 stars - May 29, 2014
Subject: wow- just wow
Great to see things from that time period but it is 100% out of step with what I understand from that time. People did not live this way during the Depression. I think instead of making their cares go away with this piece, it would make people more desperate than ever.

Babs' old boyfriend is a hoot- such a company man. You almost believe his schtick. The sets were very Art Deco and sleek. Nick, the beatnik, is funny. He overplays his whole role and seems slightly overbearing and sadomasochistic. And what a limp handshake from the beatnik....

Dad is a typical sheep as is mom. Dad seems like he took a nip before attending the fair.

Reviewer: tribtower - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - May 23, 2013
Subject: Top 3% if that in '39
Family depicted here is upper-middle class the maid is a give-away. They also own a sucessful
store. Even grandmother is rather polished. And
certainly daughter is the sorority type. How many
Americans (EUROPEAN DESCENT) were in this class
in the late 30's maybe 3%. Most people were scrambling to stay employed. The dishwasher shown
might have been available for around $400.00 at this time ($2500.00 in today's $) I think even well-heeled people like these would think twice.
And the household help would be out a luck. Dishwashers did come along for the masses in the 60's. Don't know if these folks voted for Roosevelt. The left-wing boyfriend is good for
a laugh but many monied folks were'nt laughing..
the Communist and Socialist parties had a growing
following at this time. The USA was trying to recover from 20-25% unemployment. The fair was conceived to be a bright and shiny showcase of technology, art, and culture. All our most clever
designers, show people, and politicians gave their all, it was a gloomy time with what would
be WW 2 begining during the run of the fair.
The fair was a fabulous undertaking people visted
many times. There have attempts to repeat it's
magical air- no subsequent fair has been able to
match it. The fair was a product of a particular
time. WOW!

Reviewer: bpgveg14 - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - March 29, 2013
Subject: Life in 1939 Wasn't So Bad!
Back then, LOOMS put people out of work.

Now, it's Mexicans and jobs sent over to India!

Ahh, what I would give to have been unemployed back then! I woulda put a couple of grand into IBM and Berkshire Hathaway!

Reviewer: The_Emperor_Of_Television - 4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars - December 14, 2012
Subject: Silly plot. Nicely photographed.
I enjoyed seeing the clothes of 1939 in full-colour. I enjoyed a brief section of this film which showed a busy city street.

Reviewer: Tollundism - - July 28, 2011
Subject: Kate Middleton the whore from Middle Town
The Middleton family is jeweish? Who would have known

Reviewer: steebasso - 4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars - April 25, 2011
Subject: Fair Huntington
A truly remarkable record of a particular time -- right up to and including the appearance of Huntington, Long Island and what seems to be a distinctly conservative-looking neighborhood housing a family with a precocious kid who has a particularly smart mouth. His somewhat older father seems to be charmed by anything the kid has on his mind and which is duly expressed with exuberance.

Once the cast of characters are basically overlooked (save for Grandma, who makes the only really sane comments in this picture, when speaking of an inglorious past) we are treated to a virtual time capsule of a visit to the Westinghouse Pavilion of the famed '39 World's Fair in Flushing Meadows, NYC. Of all things, I'm most taken with the sound of the pavilion itself -- hearing period gears and bills gnashing and chimbing. One gets a real sense for the pre-60's world of heavy equipment, a strong, hopeful gaze at the future, and endless fun thinking about the possibilities of life with technology. I love the comment about the three-way bulb - an invention long taken for granted and now bound for extinction.

I must say some of the comments above, from other site visitors, are incendiary and downright hateful - some speculating, with malice, as to the possible ethnicity of certain characters, which is nonsense and not the least helpful. I'll note that no one of "judic" origin would have been allowed to buy property in that Huntington neighborhood. I doubt that family would have permitted the same to marry into the family.

In summary, it is for the viewer to decide whether the corporate propaganda can be balanced with the more social-leaning aspect of certain labor movements of the time. The fact is, America's investment into industrial technology continued, and the country expanded and prospered, for at least a while and in its broadest sense. And Westinghouse was at the forefront of America's inventive spirit -- something to be quite proud of within an historical context.

The background story of a marriage thwarted seems a touch mean-spirited, as if a loathsome devil had been totally washed out of any connection to this family, now that his leftist, humorless, and greedy values had been played up for the slanted story.

Reviewer: TheFailsafeIsNeutral - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - February 25, 2010
Subject: What Goes Around....
A second Time Capsule was buried with the first during the 1964/65 World's Fair.
The time capsules are buried fifty feet down at 40° 44' 34".089, 73° 50' 43".842
Before you whip out your GPS finder, go to Flushing Meadows Park. Take the #7 train to 111th Street in Queens. Walk south on 111th Street four blocks. The site marker is on the opposite side of the New York State Pavilion from the Unisphere.

This film presents an optimistic look at industry and private/corporate enterprise, as well as easily discredited stock Socialist arguments against the same, all framed by a visit to the 1939/40 World's Fair in New York.
Should be required viewing for everyone, during these days of farmed-out industry and neglect of the very industrial/transportation infrastructure promoted in the film.
The digs at the Works Progress Administration and government attempts at managing the depressed economy of those times are priceless.

Reviewer: donwert - 4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars - February 3, 2010
Subject: We're Not In Indiana Anymore Toto!
Mom, Dad and Junior travel from Indiana to New York to see the 1939 World's Fair. Luckily, Mom's mother lives in a Long Island suburb so can stay with her and the daughter of the Indiana clan (Babs) who's been living with granny for a while. Luckier yet, granny lives in a beautiful home and has a maid---a large black woman straight out central casting. Just your average American Depression-era family!

Babs ex-boyfriend from Indiana works at the fair as a Westinghouse spokesman. But Babs has moved on and now has a new boyfriend---an artist, if you know what I mean. Worse yet, a MODERN artist.
No good can come of this---and it doesn't. Babs' ex offers to show the family around the fair---it was good of Westinghouse to let him blow an entire day escorting old friends around. It gives him a chance to educate Junior, who thinks he'll graduate into a jobless future---or, as he puts it, straight to the WPA. With ill-concealed
digs at the New Deal, he teaches Junior the wonders of free enterprise. The only thing you need is optimism! When Babs and her new boyfriend show up, things go south in a...New York minute! Since he's an artist he's also, naturally, a socialist and sneers as boyfriend No. 1 describes the wonderful electrical machinery on display. One such display is of a
ribbon-making machine. How many workers does that replace, the commie creep wants to know.
Consulting a little notebook, boyfriend No. 1 responds that over 1,000,000 people are employed in the textile industry. Ouch! Of course, you can't blame him for not knowing that 30 years later the domestic textile industry will have been globalized out of existence. Nor can he be blamed for not knowing that Westinghouse, his employer, would cease to exist as an independent
compnay and be swallowed up by a company from the nation which would bomb Pearl Harbor a couple of years after this film was made.
"You Can Be Sure If It's....Toshiba!"

Needless to say, by the end of our little drama, Babs realizes what a jerk she's been dating, Junior has his faith in America restored and they all, presumably, return to the safety of Indiana, where artists vote Republican and paint pictures of actual things.

Reviewer: MikeManners - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - January 10, 2010
Subject: The Middleton's - looking back 70 years.
I agree with Spuzz my favorite Internet Archive reviewer below. These people act almost as if they come from another planet. Have we changed in the USA so much? Did our Great Grandparents really act and live like this?

Jim (the Westinghouse Talking Head) does look like a highly self repressed type that is just chaffing under the bit and is ready to explode if the right conditions exist. He is in the Capitalist Rat Race and I think he is beginning to succumb to the pressure of the free market system he worships so much. I think he secretly wants to throttle Babs in a murder suicide incident.

The pseudo intellectual Hebrew looking Commie boyfriend would fit in nicely with Obama's left wing Kenyan Cabinet. If he were alive today he would be a prime candidate for Secretary of Labor or Education. What is the deal with the ring? Is that a standard trick in the 30s to get girls to go to bed with you...a bogus engagement ring? Wow....maybe men are getting stupider because none of my degenerate hymen popping buddies from school EVER thought of that.


Bab's looks pretty hot to me. I will bet she is wild in the sack after you overcome her suppressed sexuality. She is a bit anorexic though. It could be the Depression though and the lack of food.

My main question is this: Did people really sit at dinner like this back in the 30s? Everything is so formal and the men ALWAYS are wearing 3 piece suits - even to the FAIR!

Reviewer: criterion1884 - 4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars - May 27, 2009
Subject: time capsule
This film depicting the Westinghouse time capsule is itself a time capsule of middle American values (dare one say "self-satisfaction:?) in 1939. A classic.

Reviewer: mlwvandenberg - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - December 24, 2008
Subject: Good story
People back in 1939 must have been more spiritual and aware because they understood the problem of communism, modernism and leftism.

Notice the judic, unhumorous and wining communist. Why would America accept people like this? They did not and that is why America was save from leftism... for a while. Now America is a socialist state.

Reviewer: HI-BRAZIL - - August 9, 2008
Subject: Electrics and hypocrasis
SHOCKING!!!

Reviewer: ERD. - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - July 31, 2008
Subject: Early form of infommercial
A glossy, well done pre World War II film by Westinghouse that is now charmingly nostalgic, despite the fact most people didn't live in such an affluent and idealistic life as the Middleton's.
Jimmy Lydon and Marjorie Lord went on to better things in their acting career.

Reviewer: Greg B. - 4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars - July 30, 2008
Subject: World's Fair film with not so suble politcal overtones
All American familty visit the fair. Bab's commie boyfriend complains along the way how big business is keeping down the working man. Not to worry, Grandma gets him in the end (in a rather cruel trick that makes here granddaughter look foolish... that part was a little out of place in this film). Don't worry, they all live happily ever after and look forward to the great things to come (like WWII, the cold war, etc?).

Reviewer: Spuzz - 4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars - June 6, 2008
Subject: Fun!
Took me a while to get to this, but here it is, 1/3 family drama, 1/3 GWestinghouse Propaganda film and 1/3 Fair documentary. The film is about Babs and her new boyfriend. Babs, the Boyfriend and her family all go to the World Fair - Problem is, Jim, Bab's ex, also works there!
This is a amazing relic, with hardly a nick on it, the fair looks spectacular here, and there's a whole pile of GE righteousness going on. As for the story, I am not too sure if Jim is right for Bab either. Jim looks like the type of guy who flies off the handle too easily whenever The Wrong Thing Is Said. I'd give it 6 months before Babs is back at home again.

Reviewer: JudgeBear69 - - February 23, 2008
Subject: Not a "Fair" representation of the FAIR
I have been wanting to see this film ever since the mid 1980s.

At that time, there was really good a documentary about the "1939 & 40 NY World's Fair" [narrated by Jason Robards] and they showed some of the more "tolerable" clips from THIS "Middleton" movie.

This film however, shows hardly anything of the fair itself -- just the actors portraying "naive Americans" who believe all other countries besides the USA are "trash" or something!

My dad [who was a kid back then] didn't like this film either, but he said that alot of people DID think & act this way back then.

I AM a conservative and I LOVE nostalgia as much as anyone and I'm NOT a "trouble maker" either!

But THIS film is unbelievably irritating & corny propaganda.

The scene where they infer that ANYONE who "draws abstract drawings is evil" is one of the stupidest numb-skulled ideas I've ever heard!!

If this film had lots & lots & lots of ACTUAL FOOTAGE of the "fair" itself, THAT might be worth it!

But no, this is 95% "fake American family drama" with 5% reference to the fair. Not a "fair" representation of that great FAIR, I think.

All the people who love to WHINE about President Bush should be forced to sit thru THIS film. They'd just LOVE living in a USA that THIS film portrays, heh heh.

Reviewer: Visual16 - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - January 2, 2008
Subject: Wonderful addition to Prelinger Archives!
Thanks so much for this great film. Great digital rendering! Very enjoyable viewing! A nice lookback at the 1939 New York World's fair. Prior to this, there were the silent "home movies" on the archive. This is a dramatic upgrade for students of film history.

Reviewer: Scribble - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - December 5, 2007
Subject: Perfect Transfer
On a technical level, this is a beautiful transfer, no artifacts and full frame. This should be the standard by which all films on the archive should be made available!

Credits

Sponsor: Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Co.
Production Company: Audio Productions Inc.
Director/Writer: Robert R. Snody. Camera: William Steiner. Music: Edwin E. Ludig. Editor: Sol E. Feuerman.
Cast: Marjorie Lord (Babs), James Lydon (Bud), Ruth Lee (Mother), Harry Shannon (Father), Adora Andrews (Grandma), Douglas Stark (Jim Treadway), George J. Lewis (Nick Makaroff), Georgette Harvey (Maid), Ray Perkins, Helen Bennett.
Based on a story by G.R. Hunter and Reed Drummond.


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